Republicans suffer from many problems, as their most recent election "autopsy" reported, but the biggest problem is they let the Democrats define them in the public's mind. To counter this, Republicans must first rebrand themselves as the party of growth and prosperity. Second, they must learn to treat Americans as a continuum of people progressing in their quest to achieve the American Dream. Third, Republicans must define themselves as the party of the middle class, as they serve the changing wants and needs of all American as they strive for success and prosperity. There must be a clear vision and strategy that links individualism, hard work, and persistence with creation of personal wealth and prosperity, and one that mainstream Americans can understand and embrace as a solution to their problems. The bottom line is that many of their problems will require Republicans to change the way they think, and reconnect with mainstream Americans.
Democrats have been able to set the political narrative over the last several elections with a consistent message, repeated early and often, because Republicans seem to have forgotten how to define themselves. They have allowed themselves to be defined by the Democrats, then spending their time in defense reacting to accusations, hyperbole, and sometimes even outright lies. The GOP must brand themselves as the "Growth and Opportunity Party" as long as this slogan can be fleshed out with real, actionable plans to appeal to Americans across the political spectrum. Republicans must also finally learn from their past experience, and stop expecting fair and balanced coverage from the liberal mainstream media. The most powerful thing they can do is to develop a plan to exploit the alternative media as their primary communications channel, completely bypassing the mainstream media. Conservatives also need to find a way to bypass the liberal media and reach low-information voters who get their news from Comedy Central and the social networks. Non-news entertainment channels, and conservative comedians and pundits such as Dennis Miller, Ann Coulter, and Bill Whittle are another potential conduit that can be selectively utilized for political communications and even political ridicule on more extreme issues. Republicans must learn to define themselves as the party of the future based on freedom and prosperity.
Democrats are invested in solving problems of the past, while Republicans seem to have forgotten who they represent and why Americans should vote for them. Democrats are invested in balkanizing America into victim classes that can be manipulated for political advantage, while Republicans have a hard time describing their constituents. Democrats have developed entire infrastructures to exploit discrimination and inequality that existed years ago (race, creed, national origin, or sexual preference), stereotyping their needs and wants, locking them into their past, and possessing no metric to measure completion or even progress. Republicans need to appeal to the majority -- all Americans and not just the chosen minorities. They should lead by declaring victory in the War on Poverty and associated programs. These programs were designed to address society inequities that no longer exist. Since their objectives have effectively been realized, it is now time to dismantle the organizations and departments that have sprung up to perpetuate this form of class warfare. Republicans now can replace this backward-facing perspective with a forward view of all Americans progressing in achieving their American Dream of success: children, young adults, families, mature adults, and finally seniors, mirroring their progression growing personal wealth and security. This personal segmentation allows positioning of individual freedom, free market capitalism, and the limited role of federal government against the stages of their personal growth and development.
Democrats are invested in creating a dependent class of voluntary government serfs, whose only requirement is to vote Democrat, while Republicans have forgotten how to attract voters who want to pursue the American Dream. The government "safety net" was created to protect those who temporarily stumbled on their journey to achieve their personal American Dream. The Democrat plantation has turned this safety net into a comfortable hammock where those who stumble may reside, and are even encouraged to remain. The qualifications for participating in this safety net have been steadily expanded from the temporarily downtrodden into the emerging middle class. Now the ability to leave this government plantation requires finding a job that provides middle class compensation without commensurate experience and education. The sad byproduct of the Democrat dependence society is a permanent underclass that is condemned to stay in this "comfortable" nether class sacrificing any opportunity to better themselves. The American Dream is one of unlimited opportunity that rewards hard work, persistence, risk taking, and reaping appropriate rewards as dreams are achieved and wealth accumulated. Entrepreneurs and small business owners are prime examples of those who are pursuing this economic dream. Republicans can now define themselves as the party of the middle class, as they serve the changing wants and needs of people as they progress along their personal success spectrum.
Both parties have embraced political ideologies diametrically opposed to each other, thus negating any possibility of compromise on all but the most minor issues. Democrats are busy deconstructing many of the fundamental Constitutional principles and freedoms, while Republicans seem to have forgotten how to defend these freedoms by articulating the benefits that these freedoms deliver. During the last election, Republicans thought exposing the Democrat failings and offering ideological solutions was all that was needed, but this strategy fell short. Republicans are so proud of their own ideology that they talk about it in academic terms and have not grounded their message in their constituent's concerns. Since many of the core principles and values (healthy families, protecting innocent life, protecting marriage, freedom, equality of opportunity, the free market, fiscal responsibility, law and order, equal justice under law, respect for the U.S. Constitution, limited government, etc.) are no longer taught in school, these principles and values must be communicated and linked to the American exceptionalism message. There must be a clear vision and strategy that links individualism, hard work, and persistence with creation of personal wealth and prosperity, one that mainstream Americans can understand and embrace as a solution to their problems. Any changes must be translated into terms and benefits that affect these voters personally and why the change will make their lives better.
Conservatives and Republicans must wake up to the new political reality that has grown up around them. They can no longer afford to allow leftists to set the media narrative based on distorted stereotypes and gross caricatures. Republicans are viewed as inflexible, so it is time to disprove this stereotype by learning from the last election and making dramatic changes. The GOP must become known as the "Growth and Opportunity Party" to Americans across the political spectrum. Conservative leaders, such as Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Bobby Jindal (a Congressman, two Senators and a Governor) are trying to put a new face on the new and improved conservative Republican Party. Republicans must embrace the American Dream that is available to all Americans: those in poverty who need help to get back on their feet, new families, small business owners, the working middle class, growing families building personal wealth, planning for retirement, and eventually retiring comfortably. Finally, Republicans must return to the basics emphasizing the Constitution, free market capitalism, entrepreneurship, and the American Dream that made this country exceptional in the past and will make it exceptional again in the future.
David Coughlin is a political pundit, editor of the policy action planning web site "Return to Common Sense," and an active member of the Westchester County Tea Party. He retired from IBM after a short career in the U.S. Army. He currently resides with his wife of 41 years in Hawthorne, NY. He was educated at West Point (Bachelor of Science, 1971) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Master of Administrative Science, 1976).